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Michael E. Brown

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Michael "Mike" E. Brown (born c. 1965) has been a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) since 2003. He was previously an associate professor at Caltech from 2002-2003 and an assistant professor at Caltech from 1997–2002[1].


Brown earned his B.A. in physics from Princeton University in 1987. He did his graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley where he earned an M.Sc. in astronomy in 1990 and a Ph.D in astronomy in 1994[1].


Trans-Neptunian objects discovered: 14
(50000) Quaoar June 4, 2002 with C. A. Trujillo
(84719) 2002 VR128 November 3, 2002 with C. A. Trujillo
(90377) Sedna November 14, 2003 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
(90482) Orcus February 17, 2004 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
(119951) 2002 KX14 May 17, 2002 with C. A. Trujillo
(120178) 2003 OP32 July 26, 2003 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
(120347) 2004 SB60 September 22, 2004 with H. G. Roe and K. M. Barkume
(120348) 2004 TY364 October 3, 2004 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
(126154) 2001 YH140 December 18, 2001 with C. A. Trujillo
(126155) 2001 YJ140 December 20, 2001 with C. A. Trujillo
(136108) 2003 EL61 December 28 2004 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
(136472) 2005 FY9 March 31 2005 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
Eris January 8 2005 with C. A. Trujillo and D. Rabinowitz
Dysnomia September 10 2005

Brown is well-known in the scientific community for his surveys for distant objects orbiting the Sun. His team has discovered many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Particularly notable are Eris, the first TNO discovered that is larger than Pluto, and is one of a number of dwarf planets in the Solar System; 90377 Sedna, a planetoid thought to be the first observed body belonging to the inner Öpik-Oort cloud; and 90482 Orcus.

Brown and his team also had been observing (136108) 2003 EL61 for approximately six months before its announced discovery by José Luis Ortiz Moreno and colleagues from the Sierra Nevada Observatory in Spain. Brown originally indicated his support for Ortiz's team being given credit for the discovery of 2003 EL61. However, further investigation showed that a website containing archives of where Brown's team's telescopes had been pointed while tracking 2003 EL61 had been accessed eight times in the three days preceding Ortiz's announcement, by computers with IP addresses that were traced back to the website of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC, Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia), where Ortiz works, and to e-mail messages sent by Ortiz and his student. This was a week after Brown had published an abstract for an upcoming conference talk at which he had planned to announce the discovery of 2003 EL61; the abstract referred to 2003 EL61 by a code which was the same code used in the online telescope logs; and the Andalusia computers had accessed the logs containing that code directly, as would be the case after an Internet search, without going through the home page or other pages of the archives[2]. When asked about this online activity, Ortiz responded with an email to Brown that ignored the question, and instead suggested Brown was at fault for "hiding objects" and that "the only reason why we are now exchanging e-mail is because you did not report your object."[3] As Brown has pointed out, such an accusation contradicts the accepted scientific practice of analyzing one's research until one is satisfied that it is accurate, then submitting it to peer review prior to any public announcement. The director of the CSIC has also distanced himself from Ortiz, insisting that its researchers have "sole responsibility" for themselves.

Although the matter has not yet been settled as of September 2005, Brown has petitioned the International Astronomical Union to credit his team rather than Ortiz as the discoverers of 2003 EL61. At least one authority within the IAU has suggested that Brown's team will indeed end up being recognized as the discoverers.

Brown was named one of Time's 100 Influential People of 2006[4].

Personal life

Brown married Diane Binney on March 1, 2003[5]. They have one daughter, Lilah Binney Brown, born July 7, 2005[6].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Brown, Michael. Curriculum vitae. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  2. Brown, Michael. The electronic trail. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  3. Overbye, Dennis, "One Find, Two Astronomers: An Ethical Brawl", New York Times, 2005-09-13. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  4. Lemonick, Michael D., "Mike Brown: Pluto's Worst Nightmare", Time, 2006-04-30. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  5. Brown, Michael. Mike and Diane's Fabulous Wedding Web Page. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.
  6. Brown, Michael. Lilah Binney Brown. Retrieved on 2006-08-25.

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